As part of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Potential Wilderness Inventory, public input is being requested from the USFS through December 15, 2015. The comment process is not a simple one due to the specific criteria and format for comments (there are 52 inventoried areas and the form is 6 pages long). However, the Forest Service has indicated that comments will be evaluated without the form as long as the criteria for the inventory areas is referenced.
IMBA, with the input of all Western North Carolina SORBA Chapters, has simplified all of this by providing a summary and email form that condenses the criteria requested by the USFS and provides an easy way to comment. Included in the sample email is a list of inventoried areas with designated mountain biking trails. The Alliance urges you to use the form and submit comments. Please consider personalizing the email by adding a paragraph or two about why you enjoy riding in the forest and which areas you have additional concerns about.
Also note that this is the “first cut” in the USFS process. While it is important to file comments, keep in mind that this is only the “inventory phase” of any future Wilderness recommendations from the USFS.
Other notes/talking points:
-The Alliance (and IMBA-SORBA) does not support any new Wilderness designations in areas that contain mountain biking trails. We do support other protective designations that allow mountain biking in these areas.
-We continue to advocate for access in many areas of the Grandfather District that currently do not have designated bike trails, due to the glaring and measurable lack of trails in the Grandfather District and the Wilson Creek area.
-We support the use of mechanized equipment in some areas to improve the condition of the trails. Chainsaws and trail machines would not be allowed in Wilderness (some of these areas are specifically noted in the form letter).
-Along with other forest stakeholders, we have recently signed a MOU recommending a National Recreation Area for the Grandfather District that that involves increased access for mountain biking and other recreation, protection of existing mountain biking trails, and strong conservation protection for more than 365,000 acres of forest!
-We logged 220 hours of volunteer work on the Grandfather Distict this year, spread out over 9 Trail Workdays.
-We are currently working with the Grandfather district on many fronts to improve trails and plan for the future.
Thank you for participating in the forest planning process. Feel free to email us at info@rideNWNCtrails.com for any questions about this.